Between Dog and Wolf


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What’s It About?

Most scientists now agree that the dog is a sub-species of wolf—Canis lupus familiaris. And while most wolves look and act differently from most dogs, it can be very hard to make accurate identifications, especially since wolves and dogs can and do interbreed and certain breeds of dogs look and act a lot like wolves.

Having spent years employed at Wolf Park, in Indiana, authors Jessica Addams and Andrew Miller have encountered hundreds of so-called wolves that turned out to be dogs, hybrids that exhibit the characteristics of both wolves and dogs, and even pure wolves that act like dogs. Between Dog and Wolf takes a fascinating look at how wolves and dogs are related, why they can be so hard to tell apart and what rescue organizations need to know when they encounter a canine of unknown origins.

You will learn:

  • How and why there are so many misconceptions about wolf behavior.
  • What evolutionary forces turned “good social hunters” (wolves) into animals whose key adaptation was to become “good with people” (dogs).
  • Which physical and behavioral characteristics displayed by an animal tend to indicate it’s a dog vs. a wolf…usually!
  • The state of DNA testing and what it can and can’t tell you about the genetic make-up of dogs and wolves.

 Jessica and Andrew have nearly twenty years of collective work at Wolf Park, a non profit education and research facility in Battle Ground, Indiana. Both started as visitors, moved up to long term internships, and eventually became full time staff. Besides working with wolves, they have always been involved with animals and the study of animal behaviour. Their degrees are in biology and wildlife science.  Jessica and Andrew train their own dogs and others pets, and read voraciously.

Published 2012  Dogwise Publishing (USA)


Fit as Fido blogger
…Addams and Miller share a wealth of knowledge and research about wolves. They wisely comment about the important differences between the behavior of wolves studied in captivity and natural behaviors of wolves in the wild. For example, many of our thoughts about dominance are based on the behavior of captive wolves, which tend to have more pronounced displays. In the wild, the typical wolf pack is a breeding pair and their offspring. Given the obvious age, size, and experience difference, there’s really no question the parents are in charge. When younger wolves reach puberty, they leave the family to find a mate and start their own pack. In captivity, unrelated adults are often put together, with no obvious main mating pair. This can lead to more dominance behaviors than would be seen in the wild… Dawn Marcus, author of Fit as Fido


It is generally acknowledged as a scientific fact that our precious pooches are close descendants of wolves. The debate begins when we ask the question, how closely do they resemble one another?  This is something which it seems has largely been left to public interpretation, therefore throwing up a myriad of responses.

In this book, Jessica Addams and Andrew Miller, both of whom have spent years employed at a wolf park in Indiana, explain how wolves and dogs are related, citing the similarities and differences that allow us to tell them apart.

Focusing on wolf hybrids, the authors teach us why there are so many misconceptions about wolf behaviour, the process of domestication, a comparison of the physical and behavioural characteristics displayed by each animal as well as what genetics and DNA can tell us.

Chapter one begins by examining modern wolf mythology. Addams and Miller explain that working with real wolves at a wildlife facility radically changed their view of what a wolf is. They found that the many common judgments and beliefs they had about wolves prior to this study were proved to be incorrect. They continue by explaining that they are many different opinions and definitions of wolves amongst the general public, but unfortunately a lot of them tend to be negative. The authors look at how and why so many different opinions are formed, studying the depiction of the wolf in literature, television and movies and how this has influenced opinion.

In chapter two, Addams and Miller attempt to explain what wolves and dogs are really like. In order to understand what a wolf is, and, what a dog is, the authors describe both the physical and behavioural characteristics of both, emphasising their primary differences.  This includes examining factors such as social group, striving for rank and prey drive.

Chapter three looks at the process of domestication, explaining how the wolf, with all the different physical and behavioural traits, turned into the dog. They examine the meaning and different definitions of the word species, analysing whether the wolf and dog are in fact different species or the same. Addams and Miller also discuss evolution, and how, through the process of domestication, wolves evolved into dogs. They then discuss the difference between domestication and taming, as well as looking at common themes in domesticated animals.

Chapter four considers what we get if a wolf and dog mate. Addams and Miller discuss how DNA works, as well as looking at the role of genes, and in particular dominant and recessive genes. The authors continue to explain that wolf and dog genes are incredibly similar, and therefore what consequences this has. They then provide us with details on how to understand the percentages talked about in dog/wolf crosses.

In chapter five Addams and Miller study variable outcomes. These are the other factors, aside from genes, that complicate the relationship between dogs and wolves. They begin by looking at the role of the environment and how this can lead to variations in behaviour. Next they discuss the differences that occur in individuals, even if they share the exact same DNA. For example, a litter of puppies can all be different colours and vary slightly in shape and size. We also consider spontaneous mutations and the effect that this has, as well as looking at line breeding and inbreeding, a practice used in order to obtain more animals with a desired genetic property. Next they move on to explain the effect nutrition, ageing, injury and disease can have on appearance, as well as looking at which dog breeds have been bred to resemble the wolf. Addams and Miller then consider the impact of genes in crossbreed dogs and looks at incidences of multiple paternities. The authors continue by examining how dog behaviour overlaps wolf behaviour, before discussing the effects of age, nutrition, health, socialisation, social factors and location on behaviour. They finally explain a phenomenon they call the zebra effect.

Chapter six offers practical advice for rescue organisations and shelters working with wolf hybrids. This includes providing a practical evaluation format for identifying whether a dog is indeed a wolf hybrid. Addams and Miller explain that we must begin any animal evaluation with a clean sheet, discarding unhelpful labels, and adding why, in the majority of cases, what we are looking at will simply be a dog. They continue by providing a physical evaluation, including a checklist of giveaways that indicate the animal is highly likely to be a dog, as well as explaining the less definitive indicators. After adding a note about puppies, the authors also provide a behavioural evaluation checklist, again detailing the obvious signs and less definitive indicators that show whether the animal is likely to be a wolf or a dog. They discuss the importance of considering background information, such as whether the animal is spayed or neutered and its age, as well as explaining what else it is useful to know. Addams and Miller then explain how to assess interaction with other canines, other pets, human adults and children, as well as how to determine trainability and the propensity for guarding behaviour. Finally, they add what we can learn from this assessment and why it is important to put behaviour over ancestry.

Chapter seven explores the current state of DNA testing. Addams and Miller first attempt to provide us with a simplified explanation of what DNA is, before telling us how DNA tests work. They then look specifically at applying DNA testing to canids, and how this is used to identify the ancestral breeds involved in the formation of a mixed breed dog. They continue by providing a brief note on mtDNA and Y-DNA, before explaining why current tests have unfortunate flaws. Addams and Miller then take a look at present day research into DNA testing and explain what the future is likely to hold.

In the final chapter, Addams and Miller conclude that the contents of this book should hopefully help us to understand how sometimes dogs can be labelled as wolf hybrids for incorrect reasons.

The authors also provide an appendices detailing the influence of coyotes upon wolves and dogs.

This book gives a detailed insight into understanding the true differences and similarities that exist between wolves and dogs. Dawn Marcus describes it as “a wealth of knowledge and research about wolves.”


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